How to Approach Short-Term Trips in 2021

The year 2020 created unprecedented challenges for the world, not least of which came in global missions. With nearly 100% of short-term trips cancelled and many sent ones back in the U.S. for most of 2020 and on into 2021, how do we make wise decisions for short-term trips in summer 2021? Let’s be honest, none of us have walked through a pandemic before, so no one has all the answers. But here are a few tips to consider as you navigate this for your church.


Let’s start with the pessimistic assumption that your church will not be able to do any short-term trips this summer. Many churches I have talked to have thrown in the towel for cultivating missions awareness this year because short-term trips seem challenging to execute. Great leaders learn how to pivot in the midst of challenging situations. So, if short-term mission trips are not a possibility for your church this summer, what could you do to keep cultivating global missions awareness amongst your people?

The first area to pivot would be in prayer and care for sent ones. Are there opportunities to bring your members into praying for the nations or caring for sent ones? Sent ones have so many needs: housing, transportation and much more. The national church is in need of much prayer and support. How could you place energy towards prayer and care?

Another opportunity would be missions education. While the lack of short-term trips may provide a barrier for your members wanting to be involved, how could some of the time and energy you would have placed into short-term trips go towards missions education? A great and easy way to do this would be to do a book study through Finish the Mission by John Piper or God’s Heart for the Nations by Jeff Lewis. With the extra space, could you actually create your own missions class? What if you created a four-week missions class that went through:

1. God’s global mission through the Old Testament
2. God’s global mission through the New Testament
3. Strategies for global missions
4. Your role in global missions


One opportunity to think through are domestic trips. Most of the time we try to think outside of our country when we think of short-term trips. And yet, we really do not need to leave our country to get to know the nations. Over 40 million people in the U.S. were born outside of the U.S. In many of our major cities there are large pockets of internationals. Our people don’t need passports, plane tickets, or a lot of planning to be able to reach internationals in the U.S. Here are a few organizations that do a great job hosting domestic trips that help church members gain a heart for the nations:

• Engage Global (
• Global Gates (
• Clarkson Refugee Center (

If these opportunities are filled, consider partnering with a local organization, Christian or secular, to give members the opportunity to reach internationals and refugees. Computer classes, local literacy council or English conversational programs are great opportunities for members to get to know internationals or refugees in your city.

Another great opportunity would be at local colleges and universities. With nearly a million international students in America, every college or university has opportunities to love and serve those in our country. Consider partnering with a conversational English partner program at your local college or university or with another church or parachurch’s international ministry. Don’t underestimate the value of taking short-term opportunities in the U.S.

Consider virtual ways to engage with your field partners that can be strategic and helpful for their plans. See our PDF resource on this topic. If you are looking for new global partnerships consider setting up a virtual vision trip.


• Move your trips towards late summer or fall instead of early summer.

• Consider only recruiting those who were planning to go in 2020. The advantage here is that they have likely raised support, gone through some training, and have already shown their flexibility.

• If you do recruit new people, make sure they are very flexible.

• In raising support for trips, create a pledge system instead of receiving funds right away. Givers are less likely to give funding throughout the spring until short-term trip goers are clearly going overseas.


Cross-cultural trips are challenging to consider this year. Here are some questions that you should consider:

• Are there sent ones currently on the ground? Are they strategically ready to receive teams at this time? If there are not sent ones currently on the ground, don’t make plans towards that location.

• Can those who want to go on trips receive a COVID-19 vaccine? With the current speed of vaccination, we can project it will be at least until May or June for those who aren’t elderly or who have no pre-existing conditions to receive the vaccine. It is yet to be determined how countries, airlines and the WHO decides how to document those who have the vaccine.

• What are the current travel restrictions in the country? If you aren’t sure, check out: As a note, most countries/airlines now require a negative PCR test result to enter countries. This is different than the rapid testing, so it requires the test going to a lab and official paperwork being done. In many cases the airlines are having to interpret the national requirements and this is often inconsistent.

• What does the CDC recommend in going to that country ( Avoid level 4. Be careful with level 3.

• What is COVID trajectory in the country? Until they are on a downward trajectory it will be challenging to make plans towards trips. See for helpful COVID-19 stats.

• Have nationals in the country you’re headed to started to receive the vaccine? If not, it may not be wise to move forward. See to monitor vaccination schedule.

• Will they have to quarantine when they get into the country? This is a clear deal-breaker for one- to two-week trips. If you are sending month-long trips, you may consider using that quarantine time for doing some discipleship or global missions training.

• Are your partners willing to go through the extra work of having a team on the ground and providing for their extra travel needs? Currently the US is requiring all people traveling to the US to receive a negative PCR COVID test result before they arrive in the US. This would need to be addressed with your field partners since most likely they will have to help you find a place for the team to receive their PCR test before traveling back to the States.

2020 and 2021 have reminded us that God has been doing global missions long before there were short-term trips. Great leaders pivot in times of crisis and need. Don’t be afraid to break the mold this year. Remember that God is on the throne and he does whatever he pleases. These years are not outside of his providence and he will continue to spread his glory amongst the nations with or without short-term trips.

This article originally appeared on and is reposted here by permission.

Mike Ironside
Mike Ironside

Mike Ironside is missions pastor at Cornerstone Church in Ames. He has served on staff with Cornerstone since 2006 in varying roles from college ministry to pastoral staff to being an overseas missionary sent from Cornerstone for two years. He is the director of cohorts for the Upstream Collective. He also serves as chairman of the board for Campus to Campus, a missions organization dedicated to getting U.S. college students connected to church planting movements with college students worldwide.